Native Language and Mother Tongue
Ragini Srinivasan (India Currents, “You Lose it in a Generation,” July 2015) writes “Choosing or not choosing to speak the language is no choice at all, and cannot be vested with undue significance by the arbiters of Indian authenticity.” Well said. Growing up in south India, particularly, one does not speak anything but English in convent schools. I hesitate when people ask me what my native language is. Yes, I have one, but I think and dream in English, so what’s my answer?
Another person with an American husband here … and my kids can follow a few directives in Tamil, but they can never answer me in Tamil because they’ve never heard the appropriate responses in this house.
Gayatri Subramaniam, CA, facebook
Congratulations on a very aptly written article true for most non-English immigrant families. It is definitely a big dilemma. My own children have managed to establish bilingual households so that our grandchildren are reasonably fluent in Hindi. However this is pretty nigh impossible to achieve in a mixed marriage where the partners’ mother tongues are different.
It would have been nice if the author had also touched on the desirability or need to maintain links with mother-tongues. In fact I wonder what role it plays in helping us keep in touch with our culture and heritage assuming that it is something to be cherished (actually not, if you look at the corrupt politicians and self-serving Rajas, Maharajahs of the past who did not think twice before selling out to the highest bidder). Even so there is much to learn and admire in our old Vedic knowledge, which sadly we do not imbibe just by learning the language.
Languages improve our lives by greater access to knowledge. Sadly though this is gradually becoming more and more difficult to achieve as languages, rather than growing with the times, are dying out. Exceptions include Chinese and Japanese languages that have kept up with modern developments so that they do not have to resort to English to make sense of our new ways of living. On the contrary, in India, we have to resort to English for any understanding of the modern world.
Vijay Modi, UK, facebook
A Speech, a Salute, a Mistake
I am the grandmother of three (one has graduated and two are still in college), who will all get copies of the speech given by your editor, Jaya Padmanabhan at San Jose State University (India Currents, “Why a Software Engineer Became a Writer,” July 2015).
As a “non desi” I LOVE the monthly India Currents with its collection of fine articles. Keep up the good work.
Dee Lindner, Culver City, CA
The Convocation Speech given by Jaya Padmanabhan to San Jose State University’s Computer Science Department was truly inspiring—intimately sharing her personal experiences and weaving valuable life lessons. If I may, I would like to point out a minor flaw (the software engineer in me could not “let it pass” as-is). The reference to “Salem march” should actually have been “Selma march” (in reference to the voting rights movement in 1965 in Selma, Alabama).
Prakash Narayan, Milpitas, CA
This is a very well written speech/article. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like the author’s deep thinking. There are better ways of contributing to the society than just being a software engineer. Congratulations!
Naresh Batra, CA, facebook
I enjoyed the speech very much and like the author’s advice to her daughter to study coding. For me, it was studying geometry that taught me so much about thinking through my writing in a methodical, logical way and have advised students to study something similar. (They laugh.)
Lori Ostlund, facebook
A Shared History
The very interesting article by Anirvan Chatterjee (India Currents, “Black and Desi,” June 2015) unveiled the shared history of Indians and African Americans.
Yes, indeed, at that time there was no concept of South Asia.
The “South-Asian” label is something very new and includes nations that have no emotional affiliation with India (Bharat).
Historically, immigrants, at the first instance, have never been accepted with open arms anywhere in the world. And this can be attributed to the instinct for self-preservation.
(Except in India—where we see living and thriving communities of Parsees (from Persia of yore) and Jews even today who were welcomed and given protection by the ruling powers at that time.)
To my sensibility what the author expresses as anti-Black racism by Indian Americans is not related to casteism or color-ism. Anything unknown or new is treated with caution.
Indians come from a nation that embraces very ancient traditions of life and living. Inter-marriages (even within the country) definitely cause irreversible changes in traditions even though it also inducts newness into the system.
Hinduism has survived because of the philosophy of acceptance even while there exists a fear of the unknown.
And so we cannot pass judgement due to the behavior of certain communities in certain pockets of society.
Instead of critiquing a society or behavior, it would be more kind and charitable to attribute such resistance to the reason of preservation of old traditions and customs.
Vijaya Pant, facebook